High level machine language

susam 16 days ago

The first article in this issue of BYTE has a very interesting characterization of Lisp that I have not come across before. I mean, famous quotes like “Lisp is a programmable programming language” by John Foderaro and “The greatest single programming language ever designed” by Alan Kay are often mentioned in articles about Lisp. But in this issue of BYTE, the article “An Overview of LISP” by John Allen at page 10 has something very interesting to say. Excerpt from the article:

“The best description of the LISP programming language is that it is a high level machine language. That is, it shares many of the facets of contemporary machine language –the necessity for attention to detail and the freedom to manipulate the machine’s data and programs without restriction– yet LISP is high level in that the language contains the expressive power and convenience of traditional high level languages. The contradiction is resolvable: a LISP machine is just a higher level machine whose data items are organized differently from the binary bit patterns of most machines, and the LISP programming language is the assembly language for this machine.”

Consider the Emacs Lisp (Elisp) interpreter for example. Elisp interpreter is the Lisp machine. It understands Elisp symbolic expressions, the language of this machine. With enough code written in this machine’s language, we get this fine editing and productivity software known as Emacs!

aap_ 16 days ago

This exactly matches my thoughts. It seems that machine language and LISP are the only two languages (that I know anyway) where code and data are fundamentally the same kind of thing.

— Byte Magazine: LISP (1979)

— Hacker News

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2022.08.22 Monday ACHK